Confined Ponies Develop a Taste for Wood Shavings By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · June 21, 2012
Management of obese horses and ponies usually involves a decreased intake of grain and sometimes of forage as well, coupled with increased exercise. Decreasing forage intake can be achieved by muzzling the horse or keeping it in a stall or drylot. Because hungry horses have been known to eat hay or straw used as stall bedding, some owners have used sawdust or wood shavings in stalls, thinking that these substances would not be consumed. Apparently, however, hungry ponies can develop an appetite for wood shavings.
In a study performed by scientists from Liverpool University and the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, two groups of overweight ponies were put on diets that provided total intake of 1.25% of body weight daily. Ponies in one group ate hay and chaff, and ponies in the other group ate hay and a balancer pellet. The two diets provided the same amount of energy. All ponies were allowed half an hour of daily turnout while wearing muzzles that prevented grazing. They were kept in stalls bedded with wood shavings for the remainder of the time.
Fecal output was measured for all ponies, and results indicated some ponies excreted more than they ingested from the study diets, suggesting that about half the ponies were supplementing their intake by eating wood shavings in amounts from 1 kg (2.2 lb) to more than 3 kg (6.6 lb) daily. If confined horses or ponies are suspected of eating bedding, owners should use rubber matting in stalls.